Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Living Room Redo Featuring My Free Table!

I can not recall the last time I shared a photo of my living room. Needless to say, while it's comfortable, I certainly never felt like I'd stepped out of House & Home Magazine when I walked in the door. It took me some digging to even find this photo:

A few week ago, some may recall me tweeting about my new kitchen table. It was on my 'to buy' list, at one time, I considered cashing in some Air Miles for a bar table and stools, and most recently, I'd decided to build one with plans from Knock Off Wood.

Well, table woes no more. As fate would have it, on a beautiful Friday afternoon I was driving home from work, chatting with my mom on the phone, when there!

There. It. Was.

Sitting on the side of the road with a "FREE" sign taped to the top. A beautiful, winged, hardwood table with 5 chairs.

"No way," I thought. I slowed right down, told my mom I had to go because there was a free kitchen table on the side of the road, and pulled a 'u-ey' right there. Within 15 minutes, bf and my (AWESOME) neighbours were there, we were dismantling the legs and loading the table and chairs into their SUV. The rest, as they say, is history.

With some inspiration from  Young House Love, I pushed the table up against my 'gallery wall' and created a mini dining area in my living room. After hours of rearranging- I basicalled moved everything out of the living room and started with a clean sheet- I have a new layout that is functional and still comfortable. Add the RIBBA frame from IKEA and two $50 slip covers, and I've done a mini makeover!

Sure, I could use a little more decluttering. I may refinish and 'antique' the table and coffee table, and my EXPEDIT shelf doesn't really fit, but I now have a place to eat when I have company over for dinner or a comfortable area to entertain or lounge around. All for the low cost of $130 (for the frame and slipcovers)!

It just goes to show that sometimes, you're better off to save your money and see what better (or free) comes along later!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Why I Volunteer for 4-H and Brownies

From time to time, when I'm driving home from a Pampered Chef team meeting at 11:30PM, and I'm dead tired, I wonder if it’s worth it. Pulling clothes from my laundry basket and folding them into my suitcase on Sunday nights, I ask myself what I'm doing. I'm always on the go. My dad fondly calls me the 'roadrunner' when I pull into the farm for a 'weekend', which is usually more of a detour between destinations.

However, zipping myself into my sleeping bag on a hard, church floor, next to a room with 24 little girls doesn't make me bat an eyelash and when I race off to meetings without dinner, I never think twice. Undeniably, I would give even more of my time to Brownies and 4-H, if I had more hours in my day.

For the first time in my professional career, I am running for a non-profit board of directors. Specifically, I'm campaigning for Director on the Canadian 4-H Council. While completing the nomination application, I found myself giving more thought to why I volunteer. What makes me feel so strongly about 4-H? What is it about Brownies?

Certainly, I am compelled to give back to these organizations. But all charities are compelling, so what is behind my passion for these two youth organizations.
As a Brownie and Girl Guide, I never appreciated the lessons learned from weekend camping trips, hiking the Bruce Trail to explore the creatures in our backyard, or singing silly songs around an indoor campfire. As a Guider today, I find myself trying to recreate those experiences for my Brownies. Opportunities to deliver a "wow" factor, but also set them up with some basic skills and knowledge about the world around them. In my heart, I feel like I've let the girls down if I don't deliver this.
As a 4-H member, I expanded on some basics I learned in Brownies, but it was, more importantly, the vehicle through which I developed 'soft skills'. Communication, teamwork, leadership, patience and dedication; all nurtured through years of club executives, planning events, guiding younger members, speaking in front of strangers and taking an animal, twice my size, from wild to mild over the course of a couple months of hard work. Some opportunities were routine requirements, others came with possible reward: prizes at the local fair, scholarships, or the ultimate achievement, success at the Royal Winter Fair.

Twelve years in the 4-H program allowed me to mature significantly and I recognized what I was gaining from the program along the way. I realized as a teenager at Leadership Camp, the major role 4-H was playing in shaping the person I hoped one day to become. With new-found self-confidence, I left camp ready to tackle the everyday challenges of being a teenager by trying to look past the day-to-day and keeping my long-term goals in mind.

I appreciate this even more today. Moving to a new city in a region with its own challenges, I've met people I wished could have had a similar opportunity in their life. I am understanding how lucky I was to be involved in a program that encourages being yourself and sets you up to develop the tools needed to succeed.

Gaining a lot from the program, I do feel overwhelmingly compelled to 'give back'. Not so much because I think I owe the program, because what I got out of 4-H is exactly what 4-H wants for its members. Moreover, I want other youth to have the opportunities I did, and I want their lives to be changed for the better also. I want them to succeed and have no fear to go after their goals.

In a way, I guess I'm still giving back, but I don't think of it that way. I'm more concerned with the Brownies and 4-H members leaving with an experience that will stay with them forever. I want them to look back with fond memories and the realization they developed the base of their most important life skills though these programs. If they never remember me, but only the experiences and benefits of being involved, then I will feel I've done my part.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

Savvy Cargirl I am NOT!

After trying to justify why I need a new car, I have found myself on the distinct, opposite side of the table today. I have reached the point now, where I need to justify keeping my car.

"Surely," you are thinking, "There must be a story behind this."

Well my friends, there certainly is a story, and I admit it's another one of my not-so-proud stories. Truly, I am not-so-naive anymore to think I will be just paying for an oil change when I return to pick my car up from the shop. My car has over 315,000 km on it, it has hit a bridge and a deer (not at the same time), and I am not the most gentle driver. New brakes are to my cars, like mold is to blue cheese - common and unavoidable. In my last car post I was able to quell the urge for a new car. The economics didn't make sense, so long as I could continue to maintain my car for less than a new car.

Perhaps, I miscalculated what my current car actually costs me. Let's reexamine the facts.
  • Security - the parking brake regularly sticks, so I no longer use it. This means leaving my car in neutral or gear when I park. The power locks don't work, so unless I manually lock the doors, I just leave them open. (I'll have to start locking them now for sure!)
  • Disposable income - Regular maintenance is never just 'regular', thus my 'savings' often go towards my car to cover the unanticipated cost. As a result of the sticking parking brake, I found out today I have been driving with 3 wheels and burned a break off. !!!!!!! Yes, I'm not proud to admit that, because I obviously should have realized. That leads to my next 2 points.
  • Reliability - I can't depend on my car anymore, and I don't know cars well enough to understand what's wrong when something breaks. Parking break example included. 
  • Safety - 3 WHEELS! Enough said.
  • Time - A broken serpentine belt this summer left me on the side of the road, unable to help my friend set up for her wedding and without a car for a week while the belt and the belly pan the tow truck broke, on the way to the shop, were repaired. My schedule isn't usually flexible enough to allow such inconveniences.
  • Sanity - I have no radio. I regularly drive over 500 km in a weekend with no radio. NO RADIO. Not just no CD player, but NO RADIO! Did I mention that drives me a little crazy? Oh yes, and the power locks don't work...
If that was not justification enough...
  • Timing belt due in 5000 km... Minimum $1500
  • Tire rods... $400+
  • New tires (if I can not get my current ones replaced under warranty) ... $1000
Finally, to quote my super honest repair shop:
"Your car is falling apart. You need to get a new one."

They don't sell cars. A year ago, she told me it didn't make sense to get a new car if my maintenance costs were less than the payments would be. Advice of which I have reminded myself over and over. I'm looking at $3000+ in repairs in the next  couple of months. My car is not worth $3000. To top it off, my back tire was flat the other day when I came out of the office. 

Let the shopping begin!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

EXPEDIT Units on Sale at IKEA - This Weekend Only!!

I signed up for IKEA's e-blasts a while ago. I get notice of the usual, kitchen sales, $ back in gift cards with thousands of dollars spent and their weekly store special*.

* Hint - Each IKEA store offers a different product on sale one day per week. You can sign up to recieve notice of your local store's special on their website.

Anyway, my favorite IKEA product is on sale this weekend. The EXPEDIT bookcase (8 cubby) and shelving unit (4 cubby). Regularly $99 and $69, they're on for $59 and $39 respectively. I'm so torn. I know I can not afford to buy additional shelving units, especially since I have no use for them right now. But they're my faaavvourite!! They're on sale!

For now, I'll take comfort in the knowing they do go on sale. Should they never go on sale again, I can always try to build one. Knock Off Wood posted plans this week!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

One Step Closer to Being a Toolgirl

Two weeks ago, I mentioned I was going to a Home Depot "Do It Herself" workshop. Despite some snickers from my father and brothers when I told them over breakfast last weekend, I quite enjoyed the workshop.
There was a whopping total of 3 of us in the "Powertools 101" class, though it whittled to two by the end. It was clear the classes are not typically well attended. Even with some ill-prepared moments and slight disorganization, the instructor did a good job explaining the basics. Most of which, I have never before taken the time to find out. I thought only manual-shift vehicles had a clutch, for example, so I was keen to learn my drill had one and how it worked. Other details that the seasoned handygirl knows, like there are only 3 different sizes of bit heads, despite there being dozens of screw sizes, were like 'A HA!" moments.

Most of all, I liked the low-stress aspect of the class. It was very informal, so there was no threat of asking the question everyone else already knew. It also allowed for ample time to try the tools myself and recieve direction on their use. This definately lessoned my fear of saws, particularly the circular saw. I had nightmares of this one getting away from me, so I learned how to start the cut and how to remove the saw from the wood safely (while it's still spinning at full speed or stopped entirely). I also learned the purpose of a circular saw (straight lines) and jigsaw (curves, circles). I jotted down blade sizes and brand suggestions as they related to my furniture-building aspirations, and I took the saws for a drive myself.
On the whole, I found the night to be very informative and enjoyable. As a 'toolgirl hopeful', it was the perfect starter course. Sure, it could have been more professional and splashy, but what can one expect for free?
Actually, I feel like I should have been taking advantage of these courses all along. Perhaps, I'd be further along on my 'projects'! I circled a few more on the calender, including Drywall 101 and Planning a Basement Reno, so you can expect to see more reviews in the future!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

8 Days and Only Hours to Go

I will officially garner an "F" this week for my "Brier blogging" efforts. After following the Curling News' blog last year, I thought it would be interesting to post some of my own observations from the twenty-ten event; favourite moments, on and off the ice, wacky fans, Patch rats and all.

Despite my good intentions, it was not to be. Having missed Opening Weekend, then spending most of the roundrobin draws entertaining customers, I did not witness the moments I thought I would be urging to share. The fans also seemed relatively subdued in comparison to past years. Sure, there were the "Sociable" Ukrainian Canadians in Section 12, Jack from Ontario, and the expected Northern Ontario mooseheads, tin can moose call in hand, but I felt an obvious abscence of the deafening crowd we heard last year.

Disappointed? Perhaps a little. For a city with 26 bars within walking distance, known for it's ability to show its guests a truly good time, I was honestly expecting a wilder arena. As for the Patch, the same can not be said. Good bands and good times were still guaranteed to the lucky group that made it in the door before capacity. Presenting Sponsor, Monsanto Canada's Public Affairs Director Don Pincock stated it best this afternoon at the closing lunch, "There is not a sport in this country where the players give so much back to their fans."

So true. Afterall, what other amateur sporting event allows fans the opportunity to socialize with the players, shake their hands, share a drink and sneak a photo after the event? It is inspiring for curlers, young and old.

Of course, the friendly people of Nova Scotia have also been a true breath of fresh air for this Ontario girl. Nova Scotians don't need a t-shirt to tell others they're 'nice too'. It's evident in everything they do, from the waitress that took our order - "3 specials because you're special people" - to the chatty security guard that assured us she'd give us a heads up to beat the Patch line.

When the final stone is thrown, the Tankard hoisted and the banner lowered, I will join the players and all the crew that pulls this incredible event together, year after year, in that inevitable state of 'happy-sad' that follows every great experience. Happy to have taken in such a fantastic event. Sad it has to end.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Day 3 of the Brier, Feeling the Canadian Pride!

Truthfully, this is actually my FIRST day at the Brier, although the event is well underway here in Halifax. After two years of taking in the whole shebang, I opted for a shorter version this year. While patially by choice, it was absolutely with regrets when I learned Team Martin, better known to most across this great nation as Gold medallists, Team Canada, would be in town for the opening weekend.

I missed a 'gong show', according to the The Curling News and my event liaison. People lined up around the block and chaos ensued wherever they went. I would've loved to get a photo with the team, but mobs of people just arn't my thing. Of course, I could've pulled the VIP Sponsor card, but what kind of a person would I be then? Jumping the line 'because I'm a sponsor' and thus, disallowing some other very patient fan their turn? Morally, I couldn't do it, not to mention how bad it would look on the company.

Who knows.. the curling world is not that big. I may get another chance to hold the gold medal and shake the guys' hands. For now, I'm excited to share a little family Olympic brag moment. Gold medalist, Canadian Ice Dancer Scott Moir grew up in the same town as my Grandparents and went to the school where my aunt teaches. He stopped in last week to visit and "let his medal go around the gym just like a new puppy," said my aunt. Her students sent Scott letters of support while he was in Vancouver.

My aunt and the school administrater pose with Scott Moir and his gold medal last week.

Isn't it cool how Canadians everywhere feel like these Olympics connected us? Even cooler is how the athletes also feel so much appreciation for the fans and want to share their medals in return. I truly hope this Canadian pride lingers. In fact, I hope Canadians are forever changed. Why not be just a little prouder? It really is the coolest thing.

Under Construction

Hey readers!

I've changed up the colour scheme a little. When I started blogging over a year ago, I wanted something basic. I envisioned an online journal that resembled the physical "Real Simple" magazine. Over time, I know my blog needs to evolve. In the interim, I've selected a gray and blue colour palatte, reflective of my recent obsession with grays perhaps, that hopefully looks more modern.

By spring, I hope to have a brand new blog ready to launch!

Real Simple (1-year)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Surprise Winter Wonderland

Winter may be over in the city, but I awoke at my parents' farm this morning, surrounded in a sparkling, frozen wonderland. Knowing I could use the excercise I grabbed my borrowed camera (thanks P&P!) and headed outside.

Frosty mornings always take my breath away. Common, everyday things become sparkling treasures when laden with a layer of icy crystals. Planning to capture some of my "favourite" images from home- an apple trees that never loses its apples, a weeping willow that towers above our bedroom windows- I discovered my favourite shots were the abandoned perrennials, still proudly standing at attention as if they were unaware of the frozen landscape around them.

Here are a few of my favourites. The entire album will be on my sidebar shortly or you can view it here.
Rail fences and wagon wheels...

Pine boughs.

Check out how the frost looks like it was 'blew' onto this Queen Anne's Lace. I took this as the frost was beginning to lift into a hazy, frozen fog.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Just in Time For the Brier - My CAMA Best-In-Show Award Framed

In the spirit of Canada's newest sporting craze - CURLING - here it is!!

Just as promised, albeit a little late, my recently mounted and framed award for the Best of CAMA Best-in-Show Advertising. Not too bad, in my opinion! I was awarded 2 plaques, and I wanted to frame the ad itself, because it is unique to Canada and my company. I take all of our company's framing to Arcon Picture Frames, near Stoney Creek. They always do a fantastic job, and I can often give them a price range and the final destination, and they look after the rest.

They are a little $$$, in my frugal opinion, but I have vowed to go to Arcon when I can afford to professionally frame my personal wall candy. One of my favourite photographers, Terry Scott White, brings his work to Arcon, all the way from Kitchener!

They also have some beautful prints and paintings in their store, and they are located next to a wood furnishings store I'm itching to wander into one day. One day.... when I can afford to buy new wood furniture. For now, I will continue looking forward to building my own.

Lastly, I apologize for the rather bland wall decor. My office (!!!OFFICE!) has walls that look semi-permenent. Kind of like the walls of my portable classroom in Grade 2. You can see the seams, and it looks like it was just rigged up for some temporary arrangement. Nevertheless, I have an office(!) with walls(!) where I can hang beautifully framed awards! I thought about taking a photo of the whole office, but I envisioned it would come across disturbingly similar to SFACG's recent post. I promise I'll cut off my rambling shortly... My former manager actually sat at my desk today and said "Do you actually work in this?"

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

No Award Photo Yet

I promised a photo of my framed 'Best of Show' advertising award, and I am failing to deliver on schedule. Truthfully, my camera has decided its taken enough of my beatings, and I will soon have to abandon it to discarded electronic heaven.

Another one bites the dust. I'm embarrassed to say this is my 2nd camera in 5 years. It's not that I don't look after them... well, maybe that's not entirely true either. I go through periods of time where I take my camera everywhere. Beaches, bars, snowboarding, snowmobiling, gardening, running, cow shows ... you get the idea. The products of these activities have proven to be enemies of, most likely, all electronics, cameras not excluded. Sand, sticky drinks, sloppy reflexes, snow and ice, soil, sweat and milk.

After my first digital camera took its last breath, I vowed to religiously keep my new camera in its case. After 6 months, the case was nowhere to be found, and my camera had already had a run in with a milk bucket and shortly thereafter, a windy day at the beach. It was never the same, but it still lasted until now.

I've been borrowing friends' cameras for the past month as I scope out a new one. In an ideal world, I would cash in my Air Miles for the camera of my dreams. In an ideal world, I would also know what camera that is. I've always been a Canon girl, but I really liked my friend's Luminex we had in Quebec. I also looked at the Olympus Stylus Tough. Logically, this camera was made for me... drop it, spill on it, no problems. The reviews weren't so wonderful. So, I'm looking for suggestions. I don't want a professional camera, but I want a point & shoot of at least 10 MP and an image stabilizer.

On a completely unrelated note, I'm heading to my first Home Depot Do-It-Herself workshop tomorrow night - "Intro to Power Tools". Maybe its the comfort factor that is keeping me from taking action on all the things I have planned. I'll let you know how it goes ( and post that photo)!!